The Department of Defense (DoD) on Tuesday released the 2023 version of its National Defense Science and Technology Strategy (NDSTS) – released yearly – articulating the need to outpace China in the technology realm and better communicate with Congress and allies abroad.

Every year, the NDSTS outlines the DoD’s science and technology priorities, goals, and investments and makes recommendations on the future of the defense research and engineering enterprise. Similar to the 2022 strategy, the DoD called for outpacing China in quantum science, hypersonic, cyber, artificial intelligence, and related areas in the 2023 strategy.

“Our competitive edge in defense science and technology is built on our global leadership in these fields,” the 12-page document reads.

The strategy explains that the DoD must make necessary adjustments to the department’s internal processes, engage with the technological innovation base, and adjust industrial posture “to address the emerging dynamics of this era of strategic competition.”

In addition, the strategy aligns new mechanisms for supporting research and development with more effective pathways for acquisition and sustainment. Simultaneously, it outlined the DoD’s plan to divest from outdated legacy systems and leave behind risk-averse processes.

“This competitive edge is derived from our nation’s values, our relentless exploration of the endless frontier of scientific knowledge, our ingenious invention of new technologies, and our industrial application of science and technology to strengthen national security while promoting peace and prosperity,” the strategy reads.

The strategy explains that making these changes will require the enterprise to work together to execute three strategic lines of effort:

  • Focus on the joint mission and invest in information systems and establish processes for rigorous, threat-informed analysis that will better enable the department to make informed choices in its science and technology investments;
  • Create and field capabilities at speed and scale to foster a more vibrant defense innovation ecosystem, accelerate the transition of new technology into the field, and communicate effectively inside and outside the department; and
  • Ensure the foundations for research and development by recruiting, retaining, and cultivating talent. This also includes revitalizing DoD’s physical infrastructure, upgrading digital infrastructure, and nurturing stronger collaboration with all stakeholders.

The department also explained that international allies and industry partners are integral to the department’s research and development efforts. The strategy seeks to expand opportunities to co-research and co-develop with them.

The strategy also outlines how the department will continue to leverage the broad innovation ecosystem across academia, Federally-funded research and development centers, university-affiliated research centers, DoD laboratories, national laboratories, non-profit entities, commercial industry, and other government departments and agencies.

“To achieve the objectives of the [National Defense Strategy] we must leverage critical emerging technologies,” Heidi Shyu, DoD chief technology officer (CTO), said in a press release. “This strategy helps us make carefully crafted decisions that bolster our comparative advantages rather than engaging in wasteful technology races. We will emphasize developing asymmetric capabilities that will help ensure our national security over the long term.”

In addition, the NDSTS will continue to emphasize the 14 Critical Technology Areas detailed in the DoD CTO’s Strategic Vision.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.